The latest buzzword in content marketing is shareable content – content that’s worth spreading and easy to spread. Something the audience feels compelled to share with their friends and colleagues.
A new study from Forrester Research surveyed 58,000 consumers about the types of marketing that people trust. Not surprisingly, old school advertising fails miserably when it comes to building trust. The survey hints that a robust social media conversation can build trust. However, it isn’t your organization’s social media following that matters; what matters is your friends’ friends, so to speak. The Forrester study makes it clear – consumers don’t trust what brands say about themselves on social media. However, consumers do believe what their friends tell them about a brand; 70 percent of consumers say they trust brand recommendations from friends. On the other hand, just 15 percent say they trust social media posts by companies.
In other words, when the brand says something to me, it carries very little weight – I really don’t believe it. But when my friends reiterate the brand message to me, I’m much more likely to pay attention and believe. Brand = not trustworthy; friend = trustworthy.
Marketers must understand this and use new thinking in order to connect with the audience. Old techniques are laughably ineffective. Just 10 percent of Americans trust banner ads, and other television and radio advertising is a) extremely overpriced and b) incapable of building trust. As report author Tracy Stokes told TechCrunch, “Brand-led advertising online and offline has lost its allure … Today’s consumers decide where, when, and how they want to engage with brands.”
That puts a significant strain on brands to connect with the audience. Most organizations are accustomed to a push model – shoving their message into the face of their audience. But you must have a pull model today – a message that draws the audience closer.
The answer is to offer value; to send usable information out into the marketplace to help your prospective customers do their jobs or live their lives. If the information is credible, useful and/or entertaining, it will get shared.
The best marketing campaigns surround the audience. In other words, it seems like all of a sudden, the brand is everywhere. If you’re sending great information out into the market and suddenly a prospect is having it shared with her by her boss, her colleague, her old mentor and maybe even her spouse, she’s going to be intrigued. She’s going to very likely think that this information is worthwhile, and therefore that the brand creating that information also is worthwhile.
The marketer’s job is to fuel that conversation, and the folks at Forrester suggest that branded content is the way to do it. Forrester suggests – and we agree – that creating high quality shareable content that informs or entertains the targeted audience is the start of the process. Infusing that content into the ecosystem so that it spurs a deeper conversation is now the marketer’s job; we succeed when we provide the raw material for the conversation, and then allow the audience to discuss it, debate it and – most importantly – to share it, and thereby grow the conversation.
When your content is shared, the audience is performing half of your marketing mission – they are providing the reach that marketers have sought for decades.
Yes, you’re inviting disagreement now. It requires confidence in the brand. It requires accepting that you won’t always be right.
But, as you know from your personal relationships, you can’t build trust without an open and honest dialogue. It’s the marketer’s job to spark that dialogue, and the way to do it is with content that people are dying to talk about.